This book presents a synthesis of existing work and offers new insights into the engagement of Christian traditions with the democratic experiment, concentrating specifically on countries in the process of transition to a democratic order or those that might be prospective candidates for democratisation in the future. There are some core defining features of ‘democracy’. Some Christian groups would raise questions about the necessary separation of Church and State. There will almost certainly be occasions when the teachings of the churches come into conflict with the political or societal consensus. The reasons for the changing Catholic attitude towards democracy lay in religious change that affected the ideas and actions of national hierarchies. The approaches in explaining religious activism are explored. The book can hopefully offer a resource for those interested in exploring and thinking more about the complex relationship between Christianity and democracy.
This chapter discusses the engagement of the Orthodox tradition with democratic ideas, specifically assessing the issues relating to the relationship of the Orthodox Church to the State and to the nation. Orthodox churches have been able to live with a variety of political regimes. The traditionally dominant Orthodox churches tend to look to the past, focusing at the institutional level on developing close ties with the State and arguing that this was perfectly legitimate in countries where the majority of the population identified, however loosely, with the Orthodox tradition. The chapter also shows that Orthodox churches have to some degree sought special rights in terms of access to education, some degree of state funding and provision of religious support in prisons, hospitals and army units. The Orthodox churches have been hampered by the more limited range of theological and intellectual resources dealing with socio-political issues.
This chapter addresses liberalism and pluralism. It explains how traditionally dominant churches have handled the acceptance of a wider range of sexual difference, with the focus on homosexuality, and the growth of religious free markets. The chapter then investigates the role of Orthodoxy in civil-society-building in Russia and the experience of minority Orthodox communities in the USA. For all religious institutions, the pluralism associated with democratic political orders creates real problems. It is suggested that Eastern Orthodoxy has struggled with the democratic experiment in countries where it has traditionally been dominant. An impressionistic survey of the Orthodox experience in America largely mirrors that of the much larger Catholic community. The Russian Orthodox Church's political presence and anti-pluralist stance in a context of incomplete or ‘managed’ democratisation has been one of a number of factors that have hindered the full acceptance of social and political pluralism in Russia.
This chapter examines the developments in Anglo-Protestant culture, with particular reference to its likely consequences for the evolution of American democracy. The factors contributing to the emergence of the Christian Right correspond to those underlying the wider rise of political religion in various parts of the world. The Christian Right threatened American democracy. It promotes a socially conservative agenda. The argument of the Christian Right is that post-war ‘judicial tyranny’ has reinterpreted the First Amendment in such as way as to distort the intention of the founders by creating ever-larger hurdles to religious involvement in politics. There is an interesting parallel between Samuel Huntington's argument that Anglo-Protestant culture is somehow central to American identity and Christian Right claims that good governance requires Christian input into the political process. Christian Right leaders are concerned with their loss of power and authority.
This chapter investigates some of the political implications of the global Pentecostal phenomenon. It then turns to the claim that the movement essentially acts as an apolitical, conservative force in societies where it is successful. The chapter also concentrates more on Pentecostal engagements with the public realm and the extent to which these can be said to be promoting or hindering democratic development. Several studies show the shift towards authoritarianism that affects many Pentecostal groups as charismatic leaders. Pentecostalism provides women with a sense of community and belonging. Its long-term impact might be the promotion of a liberal-capitalist and democratic ethos, and it is more likely to be found in the ranks of the forces favouring globalisation than those resisting its more questionable impacts. Pentecostalism might encourage the sort of work ethic that might promote liberal capitalism.